Co-ops join forces to test new planning tool

A new software tool called DRIVE is being put to the test by Great River Energy, member-owner cooperative East Central Energy (ECE) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

Distributed generation, such as rooftop solar panels, are becoming increasingly popular.

Distributed generation, such as rooftop solar panels, is becoming increasingly popular.

The Distribution Resource Integration and Value Estimation (DRIVE) tool was developed by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to help identify hosting capacity. Hosting capacity refers to the amount of distributed energy resources (DER), like rooftop solar, that critical power lines can handle without becoming overloaded. Hosting capacity analysis can also be used to determine placement for other technology such as energy storage and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

“Distributed generation is becoming more prevalent every year,” ECE’s Vern Johnson, vice president of distribution operations and chief operating officer, said. “We hope this software will help us determine if projects can be sited on the distribution system. And, if they cannot, we hope it will help us determine the upgrades we need to allow the projects to be constructed and connected.”

According to Zac Ruzycki, senior resource strategist with Great River Energy, when Great River Energy and ECE had the opportunity to participate in the project, they saw it as a chance to learn and help cooperatives nationwide plan for the future.

“We saw what was happening around the country and took the opportunity to partner with NRECA and EPRI to develop knowledge and proficiency on a different tool than we have had available in the past,” he said.

Tools like DRIVE are becoming more important, in part because the industry is now focusing more on the distribution system than ever have before. As part of its grid modernization initiative, Great River Energy is working to have tools and capabilities that provide useful information to its member-owners when they are considering increased DER penetration on their systems.

Ruzycki said the project has been a success.

“We have learned a lot about how to use the new tool and the data requirements to successfully model hosting capacity on distribution systems,” Ruzycki said. “This will hopefully become a useful part of the toolbox when our member-owners want to learn more about the potential for hosting DERs or other types of technology on their systems.”